Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Two Mice

Two Mice. Sergio Ruzzier. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:
One house
Two Mice
Three cookies.
Premise/plot: Readers meet two mice and follow them through MANY adventures. The text is simple. And there is a definite pattern to it. One, two, three. Three, two, one. One, two, three. Three, two, one. And so forth. Because the text is so simple, in my opinion, most of the story is communicated through the details of the illustrations. For example, note the expression on the face of the mouse who only gets ONE cookie while his roommate gets TWO cookies. (The one with two cookies did get up earlier than the other mouse.)

My thoughts: I see this one as having again-again appeal for children. That is just my opinion or best guess. But there is something fun and playful and perfect about this one. I loved it. I really, really loved it. And the "really, really" was added after I read it several times. The first time I thought it was cute, it was good. But the third or fourth time through it was LOVE.

I loved everything about it. The jacket flap reads, "One house. Who lives there? Two mice. What's on their table? Three cookies. How many mice are needed for a big adventure? Two mice! You can go with them--it's as easy as one two three!" That has to be the best jacket flap I read this year. If a prize could be given for best jacket flap, this book deserves the win!!!

The story begins even before the title page. So DON'T skip past it. The story itself is wonderful and clever.

The illustrations are GREAT.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What's On Your Nightstand (November)

The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.

The Painter's Daughter. Julie Klassen. 2015. Bethany House. 464 pages. [Source: Review copy]

A Regency romance that will probably be "too smutty" for Christians and "too Christian" for unbelievers. I have loved, loved, loved some of Klassen's earlier novels, and, I've also experienced one or two that really disappointed me. But yet my love of her former books keeps me hoping and reading! For better or worse! 

Silent Nights: A British Library Crime Classic. Compiled by Martin Edwards. 2015. Poisoned Pen Press. 298 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 A collection of fifteen short stories--all mysteries--set during the holidays. Some of my favorite authors are included in this collection, but, also some new-to-me authors. This is a classic, none, of the stories are "new" or "modern."

The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood. (Beatrix Potter Series #3) Susan Wittig Albert. 2007. 352 pages. [Source: Bought at Library Sale]

I've read the first two books in the series. The second book, first, for better or worse. I had to track down a copy of the first book, and, it took a while! But I'm excited about this mystery series!

We Believe: Creeds, Confessions, & Catechism for Worship. Edited by Matthew B. Sims. 2015. Grace for Sinners. 360 pages. [Source: Bought]

I am really enjoying reading this one! Yes, I could probably have tracked down most of these creeds and confessions online, but, I like having them together and not having to search them out!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


The Only Child

The Only Child. Guojing. 2015. Random House. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence from the author's note: The story in this book is fantasy, but it reflects the very real feelings of isolation and loneliness I experienced growing up in the 1980s under the one-child policy in China.

Premise/plot: This is a wordless picture book. I'm tempted to call this one a picture book for older readers. Though I'm not sure that's entirely fair to the book. It may depend more on your child's attention span and interests. The art is without a doubt captivating and beautiful. The premise is simple: a young girl's loneliness ultimately leads to her getting lost. At some point, reality blends with fantasy. Where is that point exactly??? I'm not sure I can answer that!

My thoughts: Loved, loved, loved the art. It does a great job in conveying emotion, for the most part. I tend to struggle with finding the story in wordless picture books at times. The more complex a book is, the more I struggle. Ultimately I found The Only Child to be worth the effort it took to find and follow the story. But that being said, I'm not sure I fully got every page of the story. Still it's easy to recommend for the art alone.

Text 0 out of 0
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 5

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, November 23, 2015

Reading Picture Books With Children

Reading Picture Books With Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking About What They See. Megan Dowd Lambert. 2015. Charlesbridge. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

In Reading Picture Books WITH Children, Megan Dowd Lambert introduces readers (presumably adult readers) to the whole book approach of reading picture books with children. The whole book approach pays attention to the whole book. Not just the text. Not even just the text and the illustrations. But to the whole book:
  • the size of the book--is it big, is it small; is it in landscape or portrait orientation; 
  • the design of the book--what font(s) are used, what size font(s) are used, how does the font appear on the page, etc; 
  • the appearance of the book jacket (front, back, spine); the appearance of the book cover underneath the book jacket; is it the same as the book jacket or different? what materials were used on the cover; how was it bound, etc.
  • the endpapers; are the endpapers the same in the back as they are in the front; what do they add to the story, etc.
  • the front matter; does the story begin before the 'first page' of the text; does it contribute anything to the story;
  • the arrangement of the text and illustrations; how much white space is used on a page, are the illustrations on a two-page spread connected or separate; are the illustrations small or big; are the illustrations framed; do they take up the whole page, etc. 
  • the text itself; what it says, the story, the characters, etc.)
  • the illustrations; the style, the technique, the details, the art and craft of it all, etc.
She encourages adults to focus on the whole book when reading with children. Asking children questions during the reading of the book itself. Letting them interrupt the reading of the story to talk about what they're seeing and hearing and asking their own questions. She says that it only seems like it would ruin the flow of a story. She argues that in fact, the more you pay attention to the whole book the more engaged readers become. So it enhances the reading of a book.

Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of a picture book. Each chapter includes multiple examples and shares practical advice. Readers see what types of questions Lambert has in mind. Questions like: "What's going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that? What more can we find?" She does include a chapter on sample questions. Here are just a few as an example:
  • How does the jacket seem like a poster for the book, pulling us in as readers? What grabs your attention here?
  • What information does the jacket give us about the story?
  • How does the way the words look tell us how to read the words aloud?
  • Does anyone else have a different idea about this picture?

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Sunday, November 22, 2015


Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie the Pooh. Sally M. Walker. Illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss. 2015. Henry Holt. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: When Harry Colebourn looked out of the train window, he couldn't believe what he saw: a bear at the station!

Premise/plot: This picture book is the 'true story' of the real bear named Winnie that was eventually given to the London Zoo. The book ends by introducing readers to a young Christopher Robin who enjoys visiting Winnie at the zoo.

My thoughts: Most of the picture book takes place during World War I. You probably can't think of many picture books about World War I or set during World War I, I know I can't think of any others at the moment! Harry Colebourn is a soldier, a Canadian soldier, and the war is in the background. As an adult reader, I felt the war was rightly in the background. I'm not sure if young readers will read the book in quite the same way. Winnie, the bear, is a friend, companion, mascot, not just to one soldier--though Harry is his favorite--but to a regiment. When Harry's called to fight overseas in Europe, Winnie is left in the care of the London Zoo. An author's note fills in the details of Winnie's life after the publication of A.A. Milne's classic children's book.

Text: 4.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4.5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10  

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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